Cream of Beet

Jewel-toned cream of beet soup with rosemary boasts clean, earthy, and woodsy flavors that marry well with both aromatic croutons and the spicy sweetness of roast sweet potato. Porcelain plates by Hutschenreuther. Photo by the author, taken in daylight with the Leica X1.

Earthy and woodsy, filling yet vegetal, cream of beet soup with rosemary is both a fresh take on Polish holiday food and warming all-purpose winter fare. Made with water instead of stock, it is easy to prepare and boasts clean flavors that marry well with a garnish of olive-oil croutons seasoned with garlic and rosemary. Other possible toppings include roasted or sautéed potatoes, as well as raw apples or pears, chopped and dressed lightly with cider vinegar and fruity olive oil.

Here’s what to do. Soften a small onion or a couple of shallots in olive oil, along with the finely minced leaves of one stem of rosemary (about 1 tsp, which is plenty). Add a smashed clove of garlic, making sure nothing is browning. Now add three large beets and one medium potato, peeled and cut into large chunks, plus enough water to cover and at least a half-teaspoon of salt. Cook at a steady simmer until the vegetables yield to a fork. Season the soup with salt, pepper, and lemon juice or cider vinegar to taste. When it cools a bit, transfer to a free-standing blender or blend using an immersion blender. Add water by the tablespoon to reach the desired consistency and adjust seasoning as required. When ready to eat, heat only what you need: beets lose their gorgeous color when reheated willy-nilly.

Serve with swirls of cream or drizzles of olive oil, making sure to include chunky toppings of croutons, potatoes, sweet potatoes, smoked fish, chopped fruit, or crumbled cheese, especially if you’ve opted for a one-course meal.